The College of William & Mary athletic department can no longer support 23 varsity sports.
The Colonial Athletic Association member in Williamsburg, Va., announced Thursday, September 3, 2020, that it’s discontinuing seven sports — men’s and women’s gymnastics, men’s and women’s swimming, men’s indoor and outdoor track and field, and women’s volleyball — after the 2020-21 school year.
The cuts come as a response to a university-wide review that is attempting to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic and a changing collegiate landscape.
“The costs associated with operating a department that sponsors 23 varsity teams — and what is now required for them to excel at a high level — have grown dramatically over time,” reads William & Mary’s announcement. “These have become unsustainable. The pandemic has made these budget constraints acute and has brought us to a point of reckoning.”
Prior to announcing the decision, university officials conducted a videoconference to inform the 118 student-athletes and 13 coaches affected by the cuts.
“It is our hope and intention that all of the impacted varsity sports programs will compete in the spring of 2021, should the pandemic allow sports to do so safely,” William & Mary announced, noting all scholarships will be honored while affected athletes will continue to have access to academic, medical, performance and coaching services. “We recognize how important it is to the affected student-athletes to have a final season of competition together. The programs will be discontinued at the varsity level in June of 2021.”
William & Mary noted that the athletic department’s $1 million structural deficit emerged several years before COVID-19 pandemic began canceling sports and affecting budgets.
“Over the past two decades, there have been several athletics program reviews conducted by groups both within — and external — to athletics,” the press release reads. “Each of these reviews reached the same conclusion: William & Mary's model of sponsoring 23 varsity sports is unsustainable without a significant increase in funding through private philanthropy and revenue generation. In recent years, university leaders engaged in detailed discussions about how to best support a nationally competitive athletics program in a financially sustainable manner.”
The most recent forecasts found William & Mary’s best-case scenario was a $3.2 million deficit in fiscal year 2021, and a cumulative shortfall of nearly $10 million from fiscal year 2021 through 2023. Prior to the sports cuts, the athletic department saved $1.4 million of the 2021 deficit by reducing budgets, limiting travel, reducing the number of competitions, instituting a hiring freeze and having coaches and athletic leadership take voluntary salary reductions.
The university projects cutting seven sports will eventually save $3.66 million annually.
“The decision to reduce our varsity sports offerings is final,” the release reads. “William & Mary Athletics has calculated the annual budget to support these seven sports at a nationally competitive varsity level would be $5.84 million annually. The endowment immediately needed to fund these programs at this level would be approximately $150 million. That sum would endow only annual operating costs, including the full allotment of athletics scholarships as Division I programs, but does not reflect the substantial investments in facilities and additional departmental resources necessary to succeed in these sports. Other major fundraising initiatives are priorities within Athletics and for the university.”